Thursday, March 30, 2017

Discovering a Bangkok pu'er tea shop, Teeta Talk


A chance online contact, a woman from the Philippines, now living in Phuket, mentioned a pu'er-theme shop in Bangkok I'd never heard of.  I waste so much time discussing and reading about tea here that shop had to be Google-proof, and as it turns out it is.  Even their own business website doesn't mention they sell tea, since it's also a household goods chain here, or mostly that.  It seemed a good time to write about both that store and bit about what Bangkok is like.


yard at the house; not so urban right there, and tropical

I don't typically write lifestyle-theme content here, since this blog is about tea.  But it seems as good a time as any to break with that convention, since I am talking about exploring a new part of Bangkok, and since I do live in an out-of-the-way corner of the world related to most of my readers.



About that audience, you might wonder who would read a blog about tea out of Thailand.  In a sense it doesn't matter where I am, since only local cafe and shop posts relate to where I live, not the reviews, and for the travel theme posts I could've started from anywhere.  Related to readership, sometimes I'll check who is reading a particular post by reviewing the day's stats, and I just did earlier, so I'll share a little about that before moving on:






A good bit more people than average visited that day due to that post about pu'er group buying being of interest (600+, half to read that post, in the first day).  Half were from the US, the rest from all over.  Of course some of those views are from loyal bot-readers, who probably don't feel a close affiliation to their origin country since they're computer programs.  It's odd that India didn't make that list, since I help run an international themed Facebook tea group with a lot of Indians as members.


Anyway, this was supposed to be about that shop, and partly a lifestyle-theme post.


me as a monk; those were the days, two months worth of them


I don't write about my life because it's not interesting, to be honest.  I work in IT, doing process and compliance implementation and auditing, which is about as compelling as it sounds.  I don't take a tuk-tuk or long-tail boat to work, or even visit local markets by way of those on the weekend.  I use a bus and then a sky-train to commute (an elevated train), and today also a subway.


river ferries are a cool way to get around


I work in a high rise office building, and on the weekend I'm busy taking my son and daughter to swim lessons, or piano lessons, to study Chinese language (Mandarin), or maybe to a park or zoo, or to a water park.  I certainly don't go to bars where ladyboys pole-dance on stage (the Thai expression for that third transgender, which is not negative, it's just normal here), although that's a real thing, not only a cliche.  If you see a woman that's very beautiful here you might naturally wonder if she's really a man, or started as one, however that works.  That "Hangover 2" scope is part of Bangkok but not related to my own experiences.


Bangkok, an out of the way part of it



Asians do this; it doesn't seem to mean anything

The closest I get to ancient culture is passing by a temple, unless we're visiting our family monk.  I love the local markets, rows of smelly tables full of exotic fruits and vegetables, or fish sitting on top of ice, which probably really should be better refrigerated, but we typically buy food in grocery stores.


My life is all about my kids, and even for other people with kids hearing about that would get old fast.  We play; puzzles, monopoly, a little chess, frisbee, hide and seek, drawing, soccer (football, to some), whatever comes up.


Tea is as much about needing a hobby as about tea being great, but it is amazingly diverse, interesting, and tasty.  It works out well that it's a bottomless subject, with so many dimensions to learn and appreciate.


Yaowarat road, Chinatown, which looks like it always has

You would expect tea to be a common theme in Thailand, since they grow it here, and since Chinese culture is part of the general background, with lots of people of Chinese origin.  But not so much.  They drink bubble tea, or instant tea, flavored teas, RTD / bottled, CTC black tea with condensed milk, etc.


I wrote a post about that once, about tea in Thailand, but it's mostly a long version of expressing that.  They produce oolongs made from Taiwanese cultivars in the North, and a little black tea, with the styles imported as well.  But being only 30 or 40 years into that Taiwanese versions still tend to be better.



I've heard that Bangkok has the second largest Chinatown in the world, outside of China (after San Francisco; hard to know if that's true though), but tea appreciation still isn't prevalent, to some extent even there.  Of course you can buy tea there, but I only know of one tea cafe in the Chinatown.  Most of the tea shops sell tea in open bins (exposed to the air; the horror), or large jars, so they're not really on the page of presenting really good teas at their best.  Tea is only now entering the culture through modern cafes and mall shops, with more specifics on that in that post.


good at joy


About that tea shop, Teeta Talk


I just happen to be working at a recently spun-off division of the company for ISO 27001 and 20000 certification auditing this week (information security and service management scope), and that mysterious low-profile tea shop is right down the road from here, one subway stop away.  For Bkk locals, it's at the Belle Condominium shops (like a mall), beside the Central Plaza Rama 9 mall.  It's more or less a Tae Tea / Menghai Dayi outlet (factory pu'er), and they also sell some white tea cakes and a bit of loose tea, all a range I can work with.


Teeta Talk shop


The woman at the shop was very nice when I visited, offering samples of pu'er and shou mei cake (compressed white) tea, and letting me try some Thai loose teas.  Again and again they were interesting but not so much that I wanted to buy any of it.  It's not that I'm a tea snob, I've just been spoiled by vendors passing on samples of better sheng, and I don't drink much shou, and have a little at home.  I reconsidered that and bought a brick anyway, to get better calibrated for standard shou (read:  inexpensive).  It's a 7581, which means nothing to me, yet.  If it tastes a little like pressed garden mulch with a touch of tar and old catcher's mitt that still might be ok.




I reviewed some 7572 Tae Tea / Dayi versions three years back (here and here; odd citing posts from that far back, when I still don't know what I'm talking about now, and much less then).  Shou is not exactly new to me, but aside from picking up a tuocha in NYC I've been off it since I tried some Thai versions awhile back.  Good stuff, those, and this Thai sheng version was quite nice too, which I have a cake of at home, except for drinking just a little now and again and sharing small pieces.


Finally I did break down and buy a shou mei cake there too.  I didn't love the version I tried but there was more investigation to be done, to see how it ages.  Not knowing what the other versions were like made it nearly impossible to choose.  Circumstances like that require soul searching, looking deep within to draw on intuition.  Sometimes walking out empty handed is the right option, just not usually, and I picked one almost at random.  It was from the same commercial producer, just a bit older (2012), slightly more expensive, with a cooler label.  I'll get around to review and pass on more details.



The loose teas, Thai versions, didn't work out.  I want to like Thai teas more than I do, but they usually taste like the mid-range style of tea you might find in a grocery store (here, at least), or being sold all over the place in China.  I'm not a tea snob (really!), and I can drink that, but I have two versions of decent high mountain oolong from Taiwan at home that I've not tried yet--all relative, "decent"--from that visit there in January, and what I did try in this local store wasn't even close to the level of the other one that I have been drinking.  I would guess that a Wuyi Yancha sample that store employee passed on was much better; I'll check back about that.


It would be hard to do good business selling factory pu'er in Bangkok.  I'm not sure how that works out, and I've not yet met the owners to ask.  There is one pu'er theme shop here, Tea Dee Zhang, way, way out on Srinakarin Road, in the Thanya Park mall, but they've put some serious effort into building up business, and they also sell a range of loose teas.  Their business is not Google-proof, and a loosely associated Facebook tea group has 1,792 members.  The largest Thai Facebook tea group has 12,762 members; seems like a lot, for all the more Thais that are into loose tea.


I was excited to discover this store, and look forward to trying those teas, and it's nice to share a more about how things go here.

7 comments:

  1. I would love to be able to visit such a shop! Wait can I use you as my agent?
    -mrm.

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    Replies
    1. You should visit over here and we can get around to some places. If that doesn't work out I'd be happy to help with sourcing discussion, mentioning leads, but then I do tend to just give away the best ones in this blog anyway. Sometimes I'll place an order before mentioning one if it seems likely a tea type could disappear but most are just typical commercial sources anyway. I'd expect the teas in this shop would be too basic for you, although you never know, there could be something interesting sitting in a corner.

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  2. Hello,

    You have a reader from Myanmar. I am a tea loving Australian monk living in MAwlamyine for 7 years. I am wondering about your family monk, what is that?

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    Replies
    1. Nice to get a comment from a person instead of a bot. I'm not understanding the question though; why is what about our family monk? It reads as if you are asking why you are wondering, but it's not as clear what you are wondering. Which branch / type of Buddhism are you a part of?

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    2. There is only one school of Theravada Buddhism there, isn't there? In Thailand it's not quite that simple, but it does work as an approximation to say that's the case.

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  3. Hello,

    I am wondering what is a family monk, is that a monk that your family supports?
    I am a disciple of Pa Auk Sayadaw and I live at Pa Auk Forest Monastery, the largest in Myanmar.
    We do have different schools (nikaya) but unlike Thailand we all get along and dont make ugly accusations against each other. Being Australian I'm in my own school.
    Now available here is some great Pu er from Kokang region, I recommend.
    Thanks your reply

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  4. Interesting, about the pu'er; Kokang is familiar to me for that (or pu'er-like tea, since officially the term only applies to Yunnan, but it is the exact same tea). I've tried loose pu'er from Myanmar but not a typical commercial pressed cake. I could be more familiar with the divisions in Thai Buddhism; I'm mostly familiar with how Dammakaya sect is different, and that seems to be a special case. Related to the idea of a family monk, that's not really a formal term. Our family holds memorial functions through one temple, the one where I was also married, and one monk serves as a contact point for helping arrange those. I'm extending the term "family priest," but it's not typical within the Thai culture to arrange the ideas in that way.

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